Grocery Diaries

I Recently Lost My Job — Here’s How Much I Spent on a Grocery Haul That Lasted Me 6 Weeks

updated Apr 22, 2021
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Credit: Courtesy of Claire

Name: Claire*
Location: Washington, D.C.
Number of people in household: 1; Just me and my dogs
Age: 36
Occupation: I am a consultant but was recently laid-off from my job.
Grocery shopping for how long? As long as possible. Between the pandemic and being unemployed, I’m working hard to avoid both waste and superfluous trips to the store. I know that with this big shop (plus weekly fresh produce purchases that I’ll keep around $10), I’ll be set for six weeks.
Where did you shop? Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Costco
Did you get your groceries delivered or did you go to the store? I ordered a grocery delivery from Costco
How much did you spend? $164.01
Dietary restrictions? None. I’m sensitive to dairy, but I can’t resist cheese. I also don’t eat much meat.

How did you choose where to buy groceries?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I would load up on as many groceries that I could carry at either Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to avoid making multiple trips. (I don’t have a car and walk to grocery stores.) When I learned that Costco is available through Instacart, I decided to try their bulk delivery service. I’m not usually an Instacart shopper, but I was enticed by promo codes and thought I’d check it out. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Costco is financially feasible for me.

What time did you shop and what was it like?

It was odd to adjust to grocery shopping during a pandemic, but it’s been a while now so it’s become the new normal for me. When I shop in-person, I try to go during core business hours to avoid people. However, on Sunday evening, I felt like baking something easy at home so I walked to Whole Foods and picked up a box of yellow cake mix. It was busier than it typically is during the workday, but I felt OK shopping in-person. (I refrained from interacting with employees or other shoppers and opted for self check-out.)

How did you meal plan?

I’m not the best at meal planning. I try to keep a few staples on hand so I can easily assemble protein shakes, smoothies, and one-pot wonders. I’m already stocked up on pantry items like rice and beans for easy, inexpensive dinners. After this most recent shop, I made at least 40 breakfast burritos to keep in the freezer. I also portioned out and froze certain items immediately, including five pounds of spinach and bananas. Otherwise, I tried to pick out fruits that will keep for a while.

Credit: Courtesy of Claire

What did you buy? 

  • Meat: Ham, Costco chicken bakes
  • Dairy: Sour cream, yogurt, and shredded cheese
  • Pantry: Garlic, instant pho, tomato sauce, flour tortillas, pasta, sparkling water, pitted dates, vegetable oil, semisweet chocolate chips, yellow cake mix
  • Produce: Bananas, spinach, kale, frozen berry mix, gala apples, apple pears, Cara Cara oranges, avocados, and cremini mushrooms

How much did you spend? 


  • Spinach, $10.91 for two 2.5-pound packages
  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Three Berry Blend, $10.92 for 4 pounds
  • Garlic, $8.19 for 2 pounds
  • Snapdragon Vietnamese Pho, $11.73 for nine 2.1-ounce packets
  • Kirkland Signature Organic Tomato Sauce, $8.73 for twelve 15-ounce cans
  • Organic Gala Apples, $4.36 for 3 pounds
  • Apple Pears, $9.83 for 3 pounds
  • Organic Cremini Mushrooms, $5.46 for 24 ounces
  • Daisy Brand Sour Cream, $4.36 for 3 pounds
  • Mission 8-Inch Flour Tortillas, $9.38 for two 18-count packages
  • Kirkland Signature Shredded Mexican Style Blend Cheese, $16.06 for two 2.5-pound bags
  • Kirkland Signature Extra Lean Sliced Ham, $10.92 for 3 pounds
  • Sunny Fruit Organic Pitted Dates, $8.19 for 40 ounces
  • Kirkland Signature Chicken Bakes, $12.01 for six 8-ounce packs
  • Barilla Thin Spaghetti, $9.64 for four 2-pound boxes
  • Cara Cara oranges, $10.78 for 8 pounds
  • Organic Bananas, $8.70 for 3 pounds

Total Spent: $139.82 (including tax and tip, but no service fee per a promotional offer)

Whole Foods

  • Siggi’s Vanilla Yogurt, $10 for two 24-ounce containers
  • Hass avocados, $3.99 for 4
  • 365 Whole Foods Market brand vegetable oil, $0.79
  • 365 Whole Foods Market brand sparkling water, $0.79
  • 365 Whole Foods Market brand yellow cake mix, $2.99
  • 365 Whole Foods Market brand mini semisweet chocolate chips, $2.49
  • Organic kale, $1.99

$24.19 (I used a gift card)

Total Spent: $164.01

What couldn’t you find?

Cocoa powder for baking and mussels.

What do you plan on making?


  • Coffee
  • Pecans, apple, orange, and yogurt
  • Avocado with hot sauce
  • Breakfast burritos (cooked and assembled and frozen in bulk)
  • Smoothies (spinach, protein powder, frozen banana, frozen berries, and water)
  • Protein shakes (protein powder + water)


  • Cuban black bean soup (I recently made a big pot of this soup and froze individual portions.)
  • Salad made with spinach, quinoa, garbanzo or kidney beans, and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches on English muffins


  • Baked potato with sour cream and butter plus a side salad
  • Spaghetti with ground beef and vegetables
  • Breakfast burritos
  • Black bean soup

Snacks and Beverages

  • Apples, oranges, apple pears, yogurt, cake, and instant pho
  • Banana bread
  • Water
  • Coffee
Credit: Courtesy of Claire

How is this different from how you normally shop?

I usually shop frequently, whenever I think about what I’d like to eat. In my previous life (in the before times), I traveled frequently and did most of my socializing at restaurants. I definitely didn’t eat at home as often as I am now. It’s been helpful to shop in bulk and eat this way while contending with the pandemic (and my unemployment). I’m finding that I feel a lot better eating food that I prepare for myself. I’m also more aware of what I have on hand, so food doesn’t go to waste nearly as frequently as it did before. But I do look forward to amazing restaurant meals in better times.